Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

John 14:1-14 This is my favorite hymn.  Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. This is my favorite hymn… because it’s about wandering. And oh – do I like to wander.  My soul finds peace when my body is in motion, whether it’s hiking miles down the trail or jogging loops around town.  Andrews UMC has an indoor walking track; when I take my prayer time off my seat and and a’ wandering up there, I pray for three – five – ten times as long. “Come Thou Fount” isn’t about that kind of wandering, though. It’s the story of a man named Robert Robinson (1735-1790) – but it starts when he was just a boy.  His dad died when he was young and his mother couldn’t control his wildness.  She sent him off to London with hopes he’d learn the trade of barbering and make a decent life for himself.  Instead, Robinson wandered off that intended path to learn the trades of heavy drinking and gang life. One day when he was 17 (or so the story goes) Robinson and his buddies were drunk and silly and decided to have fun seeing a fortune teller.  Things turned serious for Robinson, though.  Something about the encounter seriously bothered him.  It seems to be this moment when he first suspects that he had wandered far astray, in a bad direction. This...
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Psalm 145 Can you name the first hymn in our United Methodist hymnal? It’s not placed there by chance.  “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” sits right at the front because it’s an important part of our Methodist story.  Its lyrics are a beautiful expression of gratitude for all God has done for us through Christ. But when you look carefully at this hymn… it doesn’t really make sense.  And that’s part of what makes it so powerful. It all started on May 21, 1738.  Charles Wesley – brother to John and writer of over 6,000 hymns – was sick and stuck in bed.  Such moments of forced rest provide good time for deep reflection, and before long Charles began to feel a “strange palpitation of heart.”  It wasn’t a symptom of his physical illness – it was a sign of his spiritual healing!  “I believe!  I believe!” he declared.  Charles had found peace with God! Just three days later brother John had a similar experience.  He was at a meeting on Aldersgate Street and listening to Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle of the Romans” being read aloud (also a period of forced rest? Sorry, Lutheran friends – that’s no page-turner).  Lo and behold, John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.”  He knew, at last, that he did trust in Christ alone for salvation! These were big-time powerful moments!  They were write-a-song-about it powerful:  Charles would craft “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” to mark the one-year anniversary of his conversion experience.  They were also gotta-tell-my-mom-about-this powerful:  the Wesley brothers wrote home to share the great...

God of the Ages

Luke 11:5-13 Daniel Crane Roberts wrote one hymn.  Just one. Daniel Roberts did a lot in his 66 years (1841 – 1907).  He was an Episcopal priest.  He was also a private in the Civil War, a president of the New Hampshire historical society, a chaplain of the Grand Army of the Republic, and a member of the Knights Templar.  In other words, he was an active member of the church and an active citizen of the United States. Maybe this is where his one hymn might have something to say to those of us who also have a foot in both worlds.  I am a Christian, born and bred.  I am an American, born and bred.  If I wrote a hymn that reflected both identities… would it sound anything like this? Well – probably not.  I’m not a musician, and I don’t have much in common with this man from the 19th century.  But this week I have more in common with Daniel Roberts than on any other week of the year.  It’s the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and this same holiday was the occasion for Roberts to write “God of the Ages” (except for Roberts it was a sweet centennial, back in 1876). So let’s take a look at this hymn.  142 years later, does it tell us anything about being a Christian and an American? God of the ages, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band of shining worlds in splendor through the skies, our grateful songs before thy throne arise.  As someone who’s fond of backpacking and snowboarding and the...